The United States Congress House Judiciary Committee has once more passed the MORE Act, which would end federal cannabis prohibition.
The committee passed HR 3617: The Marijuana, Opportunity, Reinvestment, and Expungement (MORE) Act of 2021. The bill repeals the federal prohibition of cannabis by removing it from the Controlled Substances Act (CSA). This would provide state governments with greater authority to regulate marijuana-related activities, including retail sales.
The bill, sponsored by Judiciary Chair Jerry Nadler (D-NY-10), was approved by the Judiciary Committee 26-15, with 24 Democrats joined by two Republicans voting yes and 15 Republicans voting no.
“Never before has public support from every corner of the political spectrum been so aligned as to demand that Congress take action to end the shameful experiment with marijuana prohibition,” said National Organization for Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) Political Director Justin Strekal. “The continued criminalization of marijuana by the federal government is an affront to our professed ideals of freedom, liberty, and justice.”
“By advancing the MORE Act, the House will demonstrate that the majority of our political leaders are ready to correct this injustice and enact cannabis policy reform that undoes the harms that have been inflicted upon millions of otherwise law-abiding citizens,” he added
Nadler, Congressional Cannabis Caucus Co-Chairs Earl Blumenauer (D-OR-3) and Barbara Lee (D-CA-13), Judiciary Crime Subcommittee Chairwoman Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX-18), House Democratic Caucus Chairman Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY-8), and Small Business Committee Chairwoman Nydia Velázquez (D-NY-7) reintroduced the MORE ACT in May.
Issues with the MORE Act and Other Cannabis Bills
The MORE Act now has 76 co-sponsors in the House of Representatives, including Congresswoman Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ-12), who introduced a bill to decriminalize drugs, and Congressman Don Payne Jr. (D-NJ-10).
The MORE Act was passed by the House of Representatives on December 4, 2020, by 228 to 164. But then-Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) did not allow the bill to be debated in the Senate before the close of the 116th Congress.
It is currently the 117th Congress.
“Now is the time for Speaker Pelosi, Leader Hoyer, and Whip Clyburn to schedule the MORE Act for a full floor vote,” Strekal said.
However, there is no companion bill in the Senate for the MORE Act. Vice President Kamala Harris previously introduced the companion bill while she was a Senator from California.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Cory Booker (D-NJ), and Ron Wyden (D-OR) are spearheading the Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act, that like the MORE Act, seeks to remove cannabis from the Controlled Substances Act. Their bill has yet to be formally introduced as they were seeking extensive input from the public on the bill.
The House has been more supportive of cannabis than the Senate. For example, they passed a bill that added the SAFE Banking Act to the yearly Department of Defense (DOD) bill funding for the year. But Schumer does not want to advance a banking bill before a criminal justice reform bill passes.
“Senators Booker, Wyden, and I have come to agreement that if we let [the banking bill] out, it’ll make it much harder and take longer to pass comprehensive reform,” Schumer said on a podcast. “We certainly want the provisions, similar to the SAFE Banking Act, in our bill. But to get more moderate people, to get some Republicans, to get the financial services industry behind a comprehensive bill is the way to go. It’s the right thing to do.”
“All the pain that’s been suffered by so many people for so long will not be alleviated because banks can now do some funding of the growing and processing of marijuana,” he added. “We think that the quickest way to get it all done is to do it together. If you let just the banking provisions pass, it’ll make it much harder to get more Republicans and more conservatives on the bill.”
According to the FBI, over 545,000 Americans were arrested for marijuana crimes in 2019. Over 90 percent of those arrested were charged with mere possession.
In an April 2021 Quinnipiac University poll, an amazing 69 percent of the United States supported cannabis legalization.
However, President Joe Biden has only become a supporter of decriminalization slowly over time. In addition, he has not recently commented on the cannabis bills.
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